Saturday, February 26, 2005


A Pirate Tale - part 42

Evening had settled on the little port city of Toamasina on the Western Madagascar coastline where Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorp Mandrake Tharp was settling down at his favorite pub, The Rolicking Redhead for a meal of Oeuffs al a Prawn. He was there as the British delegate to the Sixty-fourth Annual Piracy Prevention Symposium, but he had arrived a few days before most of the other delegates because he wanted to get a room at the Excelsior Hotel – where he had heard Princess Matilda of Sweden would be staying. He wanted to get to her before the Australian delegate; the ever-charming Ambassador Bruce Lyttle of Australia could sweep her away with his expert waltzing skills. As he stared into the candle at his table, he saw a vision of the previous year, when Lyttle, who was born the son of a Tasmanian sheep farmer and whose pedigree included a thuggish crime family that had been shipped whole, grandmother included, to Australia from England seventy-five years earlier, danced circles around him with the gleeful princess nearly floating in his arms.

“Taking a little memory trip into Rage Ravine, are we, Tharpy?” The voice broke him out of his trance, but in no way reduced his anger.

“Jezebel.” He spoke without looking up from the candle for a moment. Then as he cast his eyes upward he noticed her standing there with a lovely young woman draped on her arm. “Ambi-sexual these days, are we?” His vocal quality was one of observation and not surprise.

“Flexibility is the key to staying young, Darling.” Jezebel smiled, then, remembering her manners introduced them. “Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorp Mandrake Tharp, this is Luscious Liz – Luscious Liz, meet Lord Sir Admrial Percival Winthorp Mandrake Tharp.” Liz extended her hand across the table and Tharpy, ever the gentleman, stood and kissed it. “Would you ladies care to join me for dinner?” he asked.

“What a splendid idea! We’d be delighted!” Jezebel said as she and Liz took chairs opposite the Admiral.

“Well, I won’t mince words, Jezebel – so, what are you doing here? I assume you’re not here for the Piracy Prevention Symposium – does it have anything to do with the international delegates converging on Madagascar later this week? Or are you just slumming it in the Indian Ocean?”

Jezebel politely ignored all of his questions. “And you look wonderfully healthy as well, Tharpy. It’s such a pleasure to see you!”

“Don’t call me ‘Tharpy’ – only my brother gets away with calling me, ‘Tharpy’ and I hate it when HE does it, too!”

“Certainly you don’t want me to spend the evening calling you, ‘Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorp Mandrake Tharp’ do you? Not in light of our history together.” Jezebel’s smile conveyed a familiarity that was unavoidable and her evocation of their, “history,” produced an immediate change in Lord Sir Admiral Percy’s tone.

“How is our son?” he asked.

“Well, and in good hands.” Jezebel replied thoughtfully.

Lord Sir Percy hesitated for a moment and then asked, “Whose hands?”

“A relative.” Jezebel was being evasive but truthful.

Lord Sir Percy was beside himself now. “Oh, Dear God! Not one of your relatives!”

Jezebel replied calmly, “No. I may not be, ‘mother material,’ but I wouldn’t do that to a child. He’s with a relative of yours.”

Lord Sir Percy’s face was horrified, “But none of my relatives know about …”

“…and they still don’t. Calm down and eat your prawns before they get cold.” Jezebel smiled as Lord Sir Percy took another bite of his meal. Then she added, “And he’s learning a trade.”

Lord Sir Percy nearly choked as he realized where their son was – “He’s not with Slappy, is he! For the love of tap-dancing Moses! Slappy’s barely competent at keeping himself alive much less a child!”

“Two children, actually.” Jezebel corrected.

“Two! But you told me we only had the one!” Lord Sir Percy was near panic.

“Settle down Mandrake! - Oooo, I like calling you Mandrake, may I?” she asked, but he was too busy coughing up a chunk of egg to argue.

“The other child is, indeed Slappy’s own – although, once again, he is not aware of the relationship. He, too, is a remarkable boy without a hint of the evil that spawned him.”

Lord Sir Percy could only mutter at this point. “Slappy.”

“The man does have some skills and charm – ‘awareness,’ however, has never been his strong suit. But I tell you, Mandrake, whether he knows of his relationship to the boys or not, that big fool of a man would fight to the death protecting them. We couldn’t have found a better watchdog for our progeny.” Jezebel smiled serenely.

Lord Sir Percy gazed adoringly at her face as the candle flame danced between them. “You are a remarkable woman, Jezebel.”

“That’s what all the boys say!” Jezebel flashed as smile and a glance toward Liz, “And some of the girls.”

Meanwhile, aboard the deck of the Festering Boil, panic was the order of the day. “The winds be against us, Cap’n! Our efforts to head northwest are thwarted by these confoundin’ winds!” Two Patch observed.

“If it’s confoundin’ winds ye speak of – try standin’ downwind o’ the Cap’n after he’s had a couple o’ cucumber and green pepper sandwiches!” Cementhands waved his hand under his nose. Slappy retorted, “And do ye think yer sausage and egg breakfast comes out smellin’ like a Parisian whore – before her night’s work, Mister McCormack?”

Dogwatch braved the winds to get to the Cap’n’s side. “Cap’n, do ye remember the duck on the beach?”

Slappy immediately entered that blissful state – almost trans-like. “Aye, Dogwatch, that I do.”

“Well the duck, sir, went with the wind until it found the current that took it where it wanted to be – perhaps we would make better time if we used the wind to push us into a current a way off to the south.” Dogwatch seemed very sure of this.

“Och! Now I’ve heard everything! Navigation by duck as translated by a dork!” Professor Droppingham registered his disagreement and toddled away.

Slappy stepped back from the wheel and gestured to Dogwatch to take over. Despite the Drip’s nay saying, Dogwatch confidently steered the ship south.

With the decision made, Slappy walked away from the helm where he was immediately met by Lef-TEN-ant Keeling. “Cap’n, sir! I want you to marry me!”

“Well, this is rather sudden – I mean, I’m fond of ye and all, but …” Slappy stammered.

“No, sir, I’m askin’ ye to marry me to Red Molly!” Keeling was smiling broadly – something that Slappy had never seen before.

“Sure.” Slappy agreed. “When?”

“Now, sir?” Keeling was insistent.

“Now, we’re in the middle of a bit o’ a gale, here lad.” Slappy looked at the sails as they bent sharply, now full of the wind at their backs – carrying them southwesterly.

“I know, sir, but aboard The Festering Boil – there are very few ‘opportune’ moments, I thought that perhaps one when we weren’t firing cannons would be better than one when we were.” Keeling’s argument was well-thought-out.

“Alright, we’ve got the groom, who would be the best man?” Slappy asked.

“That would be me, Cap’n!” Ol’ Chumbucket said smiling, he looked as though he had just been in a tussle.

“Dear God, man, have ye been fighting?” Slappy was alarmed.

“No sir!” Keeling explained, “I couldn’t decide between Ol’ Chumbucket and Juan, so I asked them to wrassle each other for the honor.”

“He ahuecado mis testículos!” Juan protested the unfairness, but tried to make himself understood – “He, how you say, ‘Cupped’ my dingly-dangly bits!”

Chumbucket protested, “I told you, that was an accident!”

“If it was a, how you say, ass-dent, how come it felt so good! Hmmm? Esplain that, Meester Esplainer!”

The group of men who stood around just sort of looked at each other – then, they looked at their feet. Cementhands began to speak and lifted his hand in a gesture, but thought better of it and put his hand back down.

“You see?!” Juan now felt vindicated. “You cannot esplain it. Oh, Schumbucket, you are my amigo, but you are a naughty, naughty wrassle-man!”

Ol’ Chumbucket looked chagrinned, “Juan, I apologize for accidentally touching you in a way that made you feel … um … uh …”

Juan helped him out with the best English he could muster, “I believe the word you are looking for is ‘Esstatic’ or perhaps, ‘tingle-tastic.’”

Once again, the men all looked at their feet. Spencer started to laugh, but Slappy smacked his shoulder with the back of his hand.

Juan extended a hand of friendship to Ol’ Chumbucket who gladly shook it and the two men patched their differences.

“And what is the status of our bride and her bride’s maid?” Cap’n Slappy asked Red Molly as she approached.

“I’m not that close to any of the women on board, so I am deciding who my maid of honor will be by holding a contest to see who can answer the most questions about science and nature correctly. It’s now between two contestants.” Red Molly explained and gestured over to where Sawbones Burgess – resplendent in a burgundy taffeta dress was trying to get a peak at Gabriel the Powder Monkey’s paper. “No cheating, doctor!” Molly admonished. He quickly re-focused his attention on his own paper.

“Cap’n,” Molly began, “Would it be legal for a child to be a maid of honor?”

“I don’t see how that matters, Molly.” Slappy replied, “Doc Burgess is a man – he’s a man going through a ‘I feel more comfortable in women’s clothes’ phase, but a man nonetheless.”

“I’m referring to Gabriel, Cap’n.” Molly clarified.

“Oh!” Slappy now understood the problem. “He’s what philosophers call a ‘Midget.’ Now, I don’t know if there are any legal prohibitions against midgets being part of the wedding party, but it’s my ship – so we’ll go by my rules. And I say thar be no problem with it.” They glanced over at the test-takers as they feverishly worked at answering the questions. Slappy spoke, “This may take awhile – what say we schedule the wedding for tomorrow morning at daybreak – we’ll have a bachelor party tonight!”

The men cheered! Red Molly asked, “Well what should I do?”

Slappy glanced at the test takers – “You’ll be scoring the tests.”

Juan looked at the two bent over their papers. “Look at those test takers!” Then, clearly in Chumbucket’s direction, “I bet nobody cupped them!”

The men once again, looked at their feet.

Suddenly Cementhands noticed something, “We’re heading north, northwest again, Cap’n! With the wind at our backs and the current carrying us!”

Slappy looked up at the wheel where Dogwatch was smiling broadly – pleased with himself.

“Well done, Dogwatch!” Slappy called up and then whispered to himself. “And thank you, Ducky.”

“Even a broken clock is right twice a day…” Professor Droppingham muttered as he walked past the group. “Lucky Ducky.” He chuckled to himself as he wandered away.

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